How We View a Woman Alone

Is a woman alone always a sad sight? Is this only true in certain scenarios? Why do so many of us perceive the solo female in social circumstances as an object of pity, concern or derision?

I suppose that if she’s attractive, smiling, and gazing out a caf or restaurant window expectantly, we imagine she’s (happily) awaiting someone, and enjoying a moment of quiet reflection. But otherwise? Even if armed with an iPad and smartphone, a paperback or newspaper… will we ask ourselves why she’s alone if everyone around her is in groups or paired off?

Are You a Woman Alone? Date Yourself!

This article on Bustle addresses the options for taking yourself on a date solo, and poses these questions of why we seem to perpetuate societal shaming for women on their own. The article also suggests venues to be enjoyed if you’re considering the “date yourself” approach and want to feel comfortable.

While not precisely the same issue, I am reminded of an episode of Sex and the City from Season Three. Miranda and Steve have just broken up (for the second time), and he is still camped out on her sofa without an affordable place to live. She inadvertently intercepts a message on her machine that’s intended for him, as a woman he just met casually — a ‘girl executive’ — is asking the cute bartender out.

Miranda, exasperated, says to Carrie:

A 34-year-old guy with no money and no place to live because he single… is a catch. But… A 34-year-old woman with a job and a great home because she’s single … is considered tragic!

Isn’t this a related phenomenon? Don’t we still persist in attributing more value to a woman if she’s in a relationship?

Having lived much of my life on my own (and fine with it), 20 years or so living with children (and quite happily), and a few other years here and there with someone I loved, I’ve had a taste of all variations of living arrangements. During the years I lived alone, rare were the days that I felt like I ought to be an object of pity.

Post-Breakup Loneliness

After a serious breakup?

Sure. There was grieving, loss, longing and even a measure of disorientation. The rhythms of our daily habits are changed when we no longer share them with another adult. With a partner. Critical to restoring the balance (and orientation) is time… to reflect, to heal, to reshape routine and to refocus.

Of course, following divorce, there was the private (and exclusionary) club of couples from which I was (not so subtly) cast out — a common enough occurrence. But surely, the many years of single status before marriage had prepared me to lead a full and interesting life.

And I suspect that’s key to how we see ourselves when we are again on our own.

Incidentally, the Bustle article’s ‘date yourself’ suggestions include trying out a live music venue, a nice restaurant, and a bookstore among others. (That last is my happy place, whatever my relationship status.)

As for bars, this point will be familiar to many:

… Most of us have trouble going out alone… A woman alone is a strange thing… Sure, she could be sitting in a cafe, shopping, or getting a pedicure. These are the socially-acceptable ways that many of us seek out time alone. But a woman alone at a bar? What are the assumptions we make about her?

But what if we frequent a friendly ‘Cheers’ bar now and then, where the faces may become familiar? Does that make a difference? What about a jazz bar, where we can sit back and sip a drink, and lose ourselves deliciously in the bass or the sax? Is it all about letting go of what we think others (in groups) will imagine? Can’t we allow ourselves the pleasure of people watching and music?

Ah, the Holiday Lonelies…

I’ve known holidays entirely on my own, holidays ‘en famille’ with a romantic partner and my children, and holidays in other configurations as well.

They’ll have their pros and cons, though we tend to have specific expectations as to how a happy holiday season is supposed to look.

It seems to me that expectations are the root of the problem. If we find ourselves alone on a special occasion or at the holidays, who says we can’t treat ourselves to a wonderful time — solo?

Why not a day or two sumptuously snuggled under the covers with War and Peace, or for that matter, your favorite Jackie Collins? Why not a weekend on the slopes with the bright winter air and your body gloriously in motion? Why not that fortnight in Bermuda or the Cotswolds that you’ve been dreaming of for years?

Why not reconnect with others who are going solo — in person or online?

Why not volunteer your time and skills and backbone where it would truly do some good?

Real Life: Endings Make Way for Beginnings

I consider myself fortunate to have experienced love of many types, and from this experience, to understand the importance of valuing my own company. If anything, I crave time alone when I don’t have enough; for me, a quality relationship achieves a balance among ‘me,’ ‘you’ and ‘us.’

Don’t we all understand that every life includes beginnings and endings? We hope the endings are kind, we delight in the surprise of beginnings, and if you’re anything like me, you appreciate the sweetness of the middle years — however imperfect — in which trust is established, challenges are weathered, joys are shared, and intimacy is ever increasing.

A woman solo?

She may or may not have an immediate desire for a partner of some sort. First and foremost, isn’t she an individual? Shouldn’t she value herself enough to feel comfortable when not coupled, and to enjoy time off between relationships that isn’t considered a pause in her life, but part of living her life fully and well?

After a breakup, I’ve always considered romantic downtime an important remove from intense emotional engagement. To me, it’s a necessary and respectful palate cleanser. Then again, you may find you prefer to “play” — and hey, that’s your decision! I admit, I may be slow on the uptake considering it took me nearly three years before beginning my dating adventures following divorce.

Gaining Comfort With Going Solo

Am I comfortable going to a caf alone?

Sometimes, yes. It depends on when and where, and the mood I’m in. I’m also far more at ease doing so in a big city, where it’s much more common. Would I take myself out to the symphony or a movie on my own?

You bet. And I’ve also traveled on my own for years, and had wonderful experiences doing so.

At this stage in life, I may prefer a mix of relationship and alone time. That is an express choice, rather than a “default position.” And I’ve watched with interest as friends (of both sexes) jump back into socializing after marriage or living together and do so with desperation, seeking to distract, divert and dilute the power of loss, rather than getting reacquainted with themselves “on their own.”

Dating yourself — man or woman? It’s a concept I like, as the Bustle article reminds us:

Being able to be alone with yourself, especially in a romantic way, is essential — whether you’re in love, or looking for it. After all, without the ability to romance ourselves, how can we expect to exude a romantic energy, or really love ourselves to begin with?